Bird-snare towers

Bird-snare towers are one of the most attractive and characteristic features of the Brembana valley landscape.

roccolo_miragolo-san-marco2First built in the Middle Ages to add an extra source of food to the area’s agricultural subsistence economy, they constitute an important chapter in the Brembana valley’s spontaneous architecture and rural culture. Used for bird hunting they are the result of the synergy between a historic passion for hunting – very widespread in our towns – an in-depth knowledge of birds and sophisticated forest management techniques which are a feature of mountain communities. Many towers have now been abandoned and are in ruins but many dozens more have survived and their profiles stand out on ridges and hills along the routes taken by migratory birds. The towers are all positioned high up with wide-open views in an eastwards direction above all so that flocks of birds approaching could be quickly spotted.

The main infrastructure is in stone and wood (the hut) in the form of a tower with climbing plant species around them or trees planted right up to the walls to conceal the building. Huts normally have small walkways around them from which bird trappers could monitor the arrival of migratory birds. A double row of trees was planted in a semi-circle from the hut (the round or circle) with the open part near the tower.

roccolo_miragolo-san-marcoThe round was the most important part as far as bird catching was concerned. The tops of the trees were made to meet up in order to form a gallery within which a frame was placed to support the nets. The role of the bird-snare tower was to attract the birds in flight which could then be caught in nets. Birds in cages (call birds) were put into the round to attract the attention of the flock with their calls. When the flock landed bird trappers threw the so-called spauracchi made up of twigs with bird of prey feathers over them forcing the birds into the round where they were trapped in the nets.

Clearly environmental consciousness means that today this sort of hunting is forbidden and those bird-snares which are still in working condition are used for important studies on migratory birds. However such towers are architectural monuments reflecting the sophisticated knowledge of nature which permeated the lives of mountain peoples for generations. Of the hundreds of bird-snare towers which once punctuated the landscape over the Brembana valley passes and ridges many have now been lost and are in ruins or vegetation has completely grown over them. Several dozen still exist, however, and can still be admired in all their beauty. This list is not complete but contains the most important.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Starting from the lower valleys: Canto Alto, accessible from Sorisole, Sedrina and Zogno, Fontanù or Fontanone, Prat tònd and Prati Parini. Miragolo San Marco, above Zogno, was a wonderful migratory bird transit area and there are many bird-snare towers there: Colombèr, Prato Rosso, Roccolo al Colle and Flin.